Not everybody loves a hoppy beer. My wife Kathleen describes an overly hoppy beer as “chewing on plants”. I've heard others describe it as “pine-y” or “bitter”. I've even heard nasty rumors that some people are genetically UNABLE to enjoy hops and for those unfortunate few, I'm so, so sorry. For me, there are few things in this world that give me as much pleasure and a particularly citrus-y IPA or Pale Ale.
But, there is hope for those of you that just don't enjoy hops. There ARE beers that might give you an inroad into not only choking down an IPA, but ACTUALLY LIKING IT. These are the beers that fit the “Gary Theory” (or Gheory, for short) The Gary Theory came from Gary. He's our friend. He's an engineer, and he loves to figure out patterns and how things work. Gary noticed something about the hoppy beers that he would drink and enjoy and we've tested his theory on several of our hop-adverse friends and it's been true almost every time that it's been tried. Hop haters take hope.
First off...a very simple way of thinking about beer is dividing them up into the sweeter “malty” beers and the bitter “hoppy” beers. IPA's and Pale Ales on one side and darker ales, bocks and lagers on the other. The general rule is that malty beers tend to have a sweeter flavor and higher alcohol content. The malt is the source of the sugars in beer that are then turned into alcohol by the yeast. It is this sugar that gives malty beer their sweeter flavor. Hoppy beers, meanwhile, have a bitter flavor which comes from the flowering hop cones that are used in the brewing process. (Fun fact: did you know that hops are a cousin to cannabis? No? Me either...I learned it while trying to figure out what to say in this post.)
So what does the Gheory have to do with the hops and malts? Well, it all revolves around the balance between the beer's IBU and ABV.
IBU = International Bittering Unit. The IBU is supposed to be a measure of how bitter a beer tastes. It measures “the number of bittering compounds, specifically isometized and oxidized alpha acids, polyphenols and a few other select bittering chemicals that make your beer taste bitter.” (stolen word for word from thebrewenthusiast.com, because I just couldn't be asked to reword it) As is required by beer snobs the world over, it should be stressed that IBU's are not really meant to be taken as an indication of how bitter the beer will actually taste. Beer is a miraculous mixture of ingredients and flavors that intermingle in so many different ways that any counting of chemical compounds is going to be a poor indicator of how a beer actually tastes. So why even bother to mention it? (patience!)
ABV = Alcohol by Volume. This is an indicator of how quickly you will be drunk. Basically. Again, the alcohol from beer comes from the sugars in the malt, so maltier beers can be said to usually contain a higher ABV and a sweeter flavor.
This, at last, brings us to the Gheory. Gary noticed that there is a particular ratio of ABV to IBU that almost always indicates a sweet spot for his particular taste buds...and we've found this ratio to work on many other beer drinkers as well.
The Gheory states that beers with an IBU 10 times greater than the beer's ABV will taste good.
So let's make this a bit more concrete with a few examples. The original beer that was used to introduce the Gheory to the Good Beer Bad Movie Night crew was the delicious Columbus Brewing Company Bodhi Imperial IPA. That is a giant, hoppy beer guys. It advertises 80 IBU, but it tastes like more. However my wife, a non-hop head, really liked Bohdi and Pete introduced us all to the Gheory on that episode ( Ski School, if you'd like to listen ), because Pete speculated that the bitterness of the respectable 80 IBU's was balanced by the sweetness of the 8.3% ABV. It's not a perfect match, but it definitely opened the door to investigating the truth of the Gheory. Since then, we've sampled the following beers, which have also fit the Gheory. Thus far, it has held true.
This post is cross-posted at The Good Beer Bad Move Podcast site, where 'The Gheory' was originally proposed.